Choose. This. Day.

Evidently, there was an internet hate-off while I was off unpacking my office and getting acquainted with The Precious.

I won’t go into the details because I don’t know the details, and also because I can see from a distance that the details are rife with petty malice, self-righteous viciousness and lies.

It seems that Pope Francis kissed somebody’s hand and one of my colleagues said something about heresy and, of course, the money changer christians are all in a big kerfluffle because the Pope, once again, spoke out in favor of the poor. What’s more, he did this in direct violation of their true theology.

That theology is the self-serving, greed-driven Ayn-Rand-derived neo-con economic theory/theology that is being put on the altars of a lot of Christians’ hearts these days. It is being blessed and promoted in direct contradiction to the teachings of the law and the prophets and Christ the Lord by sin-sick clergy who are twisting the Scriptures to suit the politics of the destructive wing-nuts on the right of the political spectrum.

I’ve written extensively about the wing-nuts on the left of the political spectrum and their Gospel-twisting clergy. But from what little I know, this particular hate-off was fueled and carried forth by the right-wing-nuts of today’s culture/politics-worshipping fallen (little c) christianity.

I’m quite certain that a lot of Public Catholic’s readers are going to come at me with pitchforks and torches for saying this, but my friends, you have got to choose. Follow Christ, or follow the apologists of your political party. You can not serve them both and you cannot follow them both.

On the one hand, we have the arguments of those who buttress claims that Jesus really supports abortion, gay marriage, euthanasia, etc. They use distorted lying interpretations of Scripture to support what is in fact, anti-Christ. On the other hand, we have those who claim that Jesus really supports transferring the wealth of the people into the hands of a few greedy campaign donors and impoverishing the people of this great nation in the process. They use their own distorted, lying interpretations of Scripture to support what is also and in fact, anti-Christ.

What is the difference between them?

Nothing.

They are two sides of the same coin. And they both are leading people down the wide path that goes straight to a hell that exists on this earth and in the next life simultaneously. We are making a hell of this heaven with our politicized christianities.

You cannot — can not — follow either of these heretical (there’s that word) — self-serving, false and evil wing nut christianities and follow Jesus. It is not possible. It cannot be done.

Choose this day, people. Choose who you will serve. Will you walk down the wide road of political expedience and ez-pz morality crafted by the lying liars of politicized little c christianity? Or will you and your house serve the Lord?

The christianity being taught by the wing nuts on both sides of the political spectrum is not the Christianity that leads to eternal life. This bastardized christianity is from the pit, and it leads straight back to the pit. There is no life in these teachings; no Gospel, no Jesus. They come from people who have sold their souls to the political store. Their words are justifications of evil. They are teachings for and about themselves, their greed, and their fallenness. They are not in any way about Him.

Which is why their fruit is lynch mob carrying-on on the internet and in other places. Their fruit is death, dissolution, impoverishment of the many for the few and destruction. They lead people into self-righteousness and crazy viciousness. They fuel slander, malice, envy and an endless cycle of cruel, hate-filled attacks that resemble a debauch more than a discussion.

The internet is full of what amounts to verbal orgies of hatred, directed in the name of Christ — in the name of Christ — at anyone who disagrees with the gospel of wing-nut political christianity.

I looked over the rim of my week off and saw the destructive hate-off. I saw it and I thought, there they go again. I can tell you that from that safe distance it was clear to me that satan was running the show. We are living in times when our world is falling away from Christ. The exhortations and temptations to fall with it are varied and many. But the most sinister come from fallen christians who try to induce us to live by the world’s lights while proclaiming that we are following Him.

Is that heresy? I don’t know. I’m not theologian enough to say. But it is blasphemy. It is taking the Lord’s name in vain. Of that I am entirely certain.

Here, for your delectation, are a few random quotes, pulled from my rather spotty memory. Read them and think. And stop supporting fallen religious leaders and political demagogues who have the temerity to lecture God on morality.

Cboose. This. Day.

Who said that?

Money is the root of all of evil.

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

Do not store up treasures on earth … store up treasures in heaven … for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

If you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to me.

You cannot serve both God and money.

My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.

But the deceitfulness of riches and desire for other things enter in and choke the word and it becomes unprofitable.

What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his own soul?

Who said that?

Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied.

The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.

Do not be hard hearted or tight fisted toward your poor brothers and sisters.

You have hoarded wealth in the last days. The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you.

If a man shuts his ear to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.

He who mocks the poor shows contempt for his maker.

The righteous care about justice to the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.

He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord.

A fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare.

Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court, for the Lord will take up their case and will plunder those who plunder them.

Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath.

Atonement and the Undoable

Note: This is a re-post of an earlier post. I hope you enjoy reading it again.

Forgive

Eve Tushnet and a friend went to see a presentation at the Jewish Community Center in Washington, DC. The presentation was designed to prepare people for the High Holy Days.

Since the High Holy Days are about repentance, it tracks that the presentation was on atonement. However, Eve finished the evening more bemused that enlightened. As she put it,

All of the stories were interesting and for the most part well-told–but literally none of them followed the form I was most hoping for: “I sinned, I realized I was wrong, and I made amends, here’s how.” Several of the stories explored related questions of conscience: Ritija Gupta turned the story of how a bad-girl friend persuaded her to steal sixty cents’ worth of beads, at age seven, into a sharp little parable on how we misunderstand the gravity of our actions, condemning ourselves for peccadilloes while assimilating huge ongoing sins into our sense of what’s normal and acceptable. The host, Amy Saidman, did a funny shtik about the war between “Citizen Amy,” whose conscience would never allow her to damage a car and not even leave a note, and “Spray-Tan Amy,” who can’t stop because she is receiving an award that night, who is special and above the rules.

… The most powerful story came from the most intensely compelling storyteller, Colin Murchie. He’s someone I’ll be looking out for at future Speakeasy events. I don’t want to tell his story for him, but it was about a night when he was forced to completely reassess the motives which had led him to become a volunteer firefighter in a very tough Maryland suburb.

Based on Eve’s description, I would say that one reason the stories didn’t lead to atonement is that they weren’t about serious sin. I understand why, or at least I think I do.

The evening wouldn’t have been entertaining if the story tellers had talked about their adulteries, abortions, shoplifting and the night the guys all got drunk at the fraternity house and passed the girl around. If the wife-beater among them had confessed to beating his wife, and the woman who was sleeping with her husband’s best friend had told all, the evening might have ended early.

But the truth is that the first requirement for atonement has to be an action that wounds someone else.

Let me give you an example. Back in my misspent youth, I was the NARAL Director for Oklahoma. I referred women for abortions. I helped organize the first abortion clinic in Oklahoma and got it up and running.

In short, I helped kill people.

Lots of people.

Helpless little people that I denied were people while I was advocating for their deaths.

Now there’s something that needs a little atonement.

But how? How does anyone atone for so heinous a crime?

For those of you who are reading this with baited breath, waiting for me to give you an answer, I’ll cut to the bottom line: You can’t. You can not atone for sins as black as the ones I’ve committed.

Can’t do it.

Nothing you can do, nothing you can say, nothing, but nothing, but nothing will ever make right again what you have done wrong.

But if, for reasons that confound all comprehending, God still loves you, even after what you’ve done; if He welcomes you home to Him with joy that defies your ability to find words to describe it, and if He then puts you back into the same place where you committed some of your worst sins in the past –

– If He does all that, then, just maybe, you get the chance to … not do it over, because nobody ever gets the chance to do anything over … but to do it again, and this time to do it better.

How does an adulterer atone for his or her adultery? By being faithful to their spouse.

How does a wife-beater atone for beating his wife? By loving her the way God intended.

But even this kind of living atonement cannot undo the harm you have done. One of the hardest penalties of committing grave sin is that you can’t un-sin it. 

You can’t unadulter, unbeat, unrape, unkill anyone.

Without Jesus Christ you are stuck there in the pit of your sin and remorse forever. You will be a murderer/adulterer/liar/beater all your days. This is why I sometimes get so impatient with people who come on this blog and demand that the Catholic Church change the rules to tell them that their sins aren’t sins. They never do this about eating too many cookies or being a volunteer firefighter for the “wrong” motives.

Nope. They’re ok with those things and the Church’s teachings about them.

It’s the biggies that get them on here demanding a hall pass to heaven. They want the Church to tell them that their adulteries, abortions, disordered sex and lying, cheating ways are not a sin. They claim that anyone, anywhere, who says otherwise is “judging” them.

There are days when I want to put my arms around these lost souls and hug them. There are other days I want to ask, Are you kidding? Where do you get the arrogance to do these things and then demand that the Church — the Church — say that they are not sins?

Do you know what saved me?

The knowledge that I had sinned.

Without that, I would still be lost.

As for atonement, that came long afterwards, when I was mature enough in Christ to survive it. Atonement for me was being given an extra measure of forgiveness I most assuredly did not deserve. God put me in the place and almost coerced events so that I would be given the opportunity to pass pro life legislation. Atonement for me was being pilloried by pro abortion people. I was forced (against my will, I have to admit) to suffer public hazing for the babies.

It was that suffering, that character assassination and constant emotional battering, that finally set me free.

God forgave me, and, after a period of intense grief, I realized that I could not refuse His forgiveness by hanging onto my grief any longer. To do otherwise would be to say that my sins were greater than His mercy.

But it was the atonement — which in my case amounted to a kind of social death — that finally set me completely free of my sins.

I could not undo what I had done. I could not unkill those I had helped kill. I was powerless to rewind the havoc I had wreaked with my sinfulness.

But God could heal me of this grief, and He did. He gave me the chance to suffer just a bit, and the suffering cleansed me in my heart and mind.

I read somewhere — I think it was In This House of Brede, but I’m not sure — that atonement is really at-one-ment. That is a beautiful thought, and I think a true one. Atonement heals the person who atones and allows them to fully rejoin the human race, including those they have harmed, with a renewed self and a new purpose.

Now I, the former advocate of abortion, champion the unborn. I moved from who I was to who I am, from my then to God’s now. In the process, I found a wholeness and forgiveness that only someone who has gone to Jesus in the hopelessness and desperation of knowing that nothing they do can ever undo what they have already done can understand.

None of this belongs in a play, of course. At least not an entertaining one.

But it is the truth.

Saying Goodbye.

 

I am leaving the Oklahoma legislature. Last week was a week of formal goodbyes.

I gave a farewell speech to the House, which you can watch, if you’d like. Go here to see the video. The House Democrats held their annual Sine Die Party, and roasted me and other departing legislators. The Democratic Legislative Assistants prepared a delicious luncheon (Covered dish. All their best cooking. It was to die for.) with a cake with all our names and said another round of good-byes. I even got a small — and lovely — good-bye editorial in the Oklahoman.

We are still in the busiest time of the legislative process. We haven’t shut down. Not at all. That means I’m going to be tres busy until we actually do sine die. (Sine die is the motion we make to adjourn the legislative session.) But I am grateful beyond words to my colleagues for giving me these many avenues of good-bye.

Each of these things is a rite of passage for what has to be a huge transition in my life. Leaving the legislature is a little bit like a soldier, coming home from a war. You are leaving a combative, total environment which engages you on every level and returning to a world that now seems out of kilter by comparison.

Wherever people are for a period of time, that becomes their normal. Normal for me has long ago become the totally unreal world of elected politics.

At the same time, I am way past glad to be leaving. God gave me something like marching orders for the rest of my life a few years ago when I was sitting in the cathedral at Fatima. I’ve dithered since then, occupied and preoccupied by the legislative wars and the many needs of my constituents. If you don’t think that these things are a 24/7 occupation that devours of all your thoughts and passions, then, you my friend, have never been a legislator.

Those of us who legislate or who have legislated know that there are very few jobs that swallow you whole like legislating does. It is difficult to disengage enough to maintain your friendships and family and retain something of your personality.

As for fulfilling the call that God gave me, I found it well nigh impossible. I need more than corners of time in my days to write the things He wants me to write. I’m not going to discuss in detail what I think this is all about. I have a lot of praying to do first.

I do know that I am not going to abandon the political process. I am also not going to stop writing about the intersection of public life and Christianity on this blog. I will, if anything, be a lot more free to talk about these issues now that I’m not bound to protect the privacy of so many people.

That is not to say that I will be talking about closed door conversations with my colleagues or divulging the almost endless private things that my constituents have shared with me through 18 years of elected office.

I have represented, cared for and cared about thousands of people for a very long time. In the course of that, many of them have opened their souls to me. I have never and I will never talk about the people who trusted me to be their voice in government and who honored me by opening their lives and hearts to me in conversations that were in fact and in truth non-sacramental confessions.

All these things I take with me to my grave.

What I will talk about is the intersection of public policy and publicly stated comments, actions, etc. I’ve operated for a long time using the standard that if something is published and circulated publicly, I can talk about it. That won’t change. It will, rather, be enhanced by the fact that I know what’s behind these things. I will be a lot less guarded in my opinions in the future when I do not have the responsibility for many thousands of people on my shoulders.

Christians in America have a mountain in front of us. After more than two hundred years of having things our way, we are faced with a society in which we are beleaguered. We live in post Christian America. Our task is to re-convert our nation to Christ.  Right now, we are not up to that task. We are, in fact, confused, divided and overawed by our opposition.

That’s what I’m going to write about. Because somebody needs to do it. And because I am uniquely qualified for the job.

 

IMAG0895

My favorite Representative Hamilton photo. From Rose Day 2014. 

I tried to remember to thank everyone in this speech, but I somehow forgot to mention — even though I wrote their names down and they were right in front of me — two of the most important people. Louise Scoles, who fought for my election and was my sponsor when I entered the Catholic Church. And George Violette, my brother by another mother, who is family in every way except blood. I love both of you.

The “Tony” I introduce in the video is Tony Lauinger, president of Oklahomans for Life and Vice President of National Right to Life. He is my friend. I know that he will remain my friend after I leave office.

If you want to watch the speech, go here.

 

The REAL Welfare Queens: The Overbearing, Election-Buying, Congress-Owning, Almighty Money Changers of the Temple of Greed

Note: I first published this post almost two years ago. We’re coming to the end of the legislative session here in Oklahoma, plus I have quite a few personal and family issues to deal with. I’m going to re-blog a few posts from the past this week, along with a few others that will be short, but more timely. I hope you enjoy them.


Let’s talk for a moment about people who feel “entitled” to government hand-outs.

I don’t mean those sad souls who come to the legislature in their wheelchairs begging pathetically not to be put out of their group homes. I also don’t mean the sprightly retirees who want to be able to buy food and pay their utilities, both in the same month.

No. I mean the overbearing, election-buying, Congress-owning, almighty money changers who hire the lobbyists, pay for the campaigns and control the think tanks and Chambers of Commerce. I mean those folks who send their lobbyists (who make more money in a year than most of the people reading this will make in a lifetime) to elected officials with already drafted legislation that they want the legislator to “author.”

This special interest legislation has been crafted by well-paid “public policy experts” to give the moneyed class unfair advantage over their business competitors, control of vast parts of the government treasury and tax cuts that will protect their ever-increasing wealth on a generational basis.

That’s who I mean: The REAL welfare queens; the ultimate parasites who are draining the life blood out of the American economy so they can add it to their hoard.

These are the people who make money out of the wars in which our children fight and die. They are the ones who benefit when American jobs and American industry are shipped overseas. They buy almost every election. They control the majority of the elected officials in both parties. Our government functions for them. It has become government of the corporation, by the corporation and for the corporation.

No one tracks the amount of money that goes to corporate welfare. It’s like pouring water into sand. We pass laws with a strategic sentence here or there, or in some cases whole bills, that are designed to benefit the people who paid for the expensive political campaigns that got these office holders where they are in the first place. The money we just spent on crony capitalism vanishes into the pockets of our pals and no one but the recipients knows how much it was or where it ultimately went.

Consider that while we have an admitted national debt in excess of $1 trillion, the Cato Institute says that we are shelling out an annual $100 billion on corporate welfare this year. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal hikes the estimate to $200 billion. That’s a $100 billion dollar mystery. For all we know, it might be many times more. In fact, considering how most of this money is hidden inside other pieces of legislation, and that no one keeps track of it, it almost certainly is many times higher.

The figures we have, outrageous as they seem, are just a nip out of the bottle of what actual corporate welfare costs. But their very nebulousness indicates quite clearly how little we really know about what we’re spending as a people to keep the real welfare queens of this nation fat, fatter and fatter still.

Has this money we’re spending on corporate welfare benefited you and me? If it has, where are our jobs? Where is our industrial base? Why is America increasingly becoming a country that can not manufacture its own goods? What are we the people getting for this $100 billion dollar or $200 billion dollar or whatever it is check we keep signing over?

This is why, when I hear some pious pundit go on about people who feel “entitled” and then proceed to point their finger at the elderly, disabled and the vulnerable, I feel a wave of cynicism building off shore and then pouring over me.

I remember the lobby days for the disabled at the Oklahoma State Capitol when we are inundated by people in wheelchairs, many of whom who are so disabled they cannot hold their heads up straight or carry on a conversation or eat without drooling. I’ve seen their faces, looking up at me, begging me to do something to keep them from losing the funding that lets them live their lives with at least a little bit of dignity.

Then, I remember the corporate lobbyists in their expensive suits. I’ve seen them sitting in legislator’s offices, telling — not asking, but telling – committee chairmen, who were supposedly elected by the people, which bills to kill.

I think about the bill after bill after bill that we vote on that rips the people off in first one way and then the other, all on behalf of some moneyed interest. It goes on like that all day where I work. Bill, after bill, after bill; until you get bored and numb with the repetitiveness of them, all written by special interests, pushed by special interests and passed into law for special interests. These bills are designed to give a competitive advantage over smaller businesses, limit consumer redress, allow favorable contract terms against individual citizens or create government transfer of tax-payer money to corporate coffers.

These laws have nothing to do with the free enterprise system. They are the opposite of free enterprise. They allow big business to rip off everybody, including the small business owner whose dues go to the Chambers of Commerce that the big business controls.

I’ve been living with this … this corruption … for years. I see it every day. I hear it all day. I vote no. I debate against it. But my small voice and my one vote can not change the tide of corporatism that is drowning our Republic.

That’s why I’m talking about it here. Because all our votes together might do something. But that can never happen so long as we continue buying into the nonsense and lies that corporate talking heads keep feeding us. If we want to survive as a free people, we’ve got to start doing some of our own thinking.

Benham Brothers: “If Our Faith Cost Us the Show, So Be It.”

 

The Benham brothers have issued a statement concerning the cancellation of their show by HGTV.

HGTV has joined the line of corporations and other enterprises which is limiting employment according to the dictates of the politically correct police. There is a tendency to label the people on the two sides of this debate as either “liberal” or “conservative” or, sometimes, as “right-wing” or “left-wing.” But in truth, these liberals are no more liberals than today’s neo-cons are conservatives.

It would be far better to use correct language to talk about them. The extreme sides of the political divide are both totalitarian liars and bullies. They are both, each in their own way, the enemies of human freedom and human dignity. They have a lot more in common with one another than they do with the rest of us.

However, the Benham brothers, who were fired for holding political and social viewpoints that run afoul of the received wisdom of a group called “Right Wing Watch,” have reacted to the situation with courage, grace and a dignity of their own.

Here is their statement (emphasis mine):

“The first and last thought on our minds as we begin and end each day is; have we shined Christ’s light today? Our faith is the fundamental calling in our lives, and the centerpiece of who we are. As Christians we are called to love our fellow man. Anyone who suggests that we hate homosexuals or people of other faiths is either misinformed or lying. Over the last decade, we’ve sold thousands of homes with the guiding principle of producing value and breathing life into each family that has crossed our path, and we do not, nor will we ever discriminate against people who do not share our views.” 

“We were saddened to hear HGTV’s decision. With all of the grotesque things that can be seen and heard on television today you would think there would be room for two twin brothers who are faithful to our families, committed to biblical principles, and dedicated professionals. If our faith costs us a television show then so be it.”

I am heartened by the Benham brother’s reaction to the unjust way in which they lost their job. McCarthyism is back and we have a new blacklist. It looks like this thing is just gathering steam. Christians in all walks of life may end up being blacklisted by the politically correct cops as time rolls forward.

For myself, I’ve now had a week with no HGTV. That’s a change for me. I’ve spent a lot of time, watching HGTV. It’s an easy channel to flip on when I have a few minutes and need to unwind. Because of the nature of its programming, I can enjoy it without committing a large block of time to it.

And, I am interested in homey stuff like what color to paint a wall.

In fact, one of my sons is going to paint a room in my house as my Mother’s Day present. So, I’ve been perusing paint colors online in my spare moments. I started out looking at Sherwin Williams. But, alas, they have a (very nice) selection of colors from HGTV.

I may be a Christian, but my money is still green. And I’m not going to spend any of my green stuff in places that partner up with HGTV. I did before. It didn’t bother me a bit that they had openly gay people doing design work. I wasn’t turned away by shows with gay couples buying houses for themselves. I don’t agree with gay marriage, but that doesn’t mean I have a hate on for gay people.

However, when HGTV gets a hate on for people like me, who don’t agree with gay marriage, my money is going someplace else.

So, bye, bye, Sherwin Williams. Hello Benjamin Moore.

Actor Kevin Sorbo’s Faith Story

 

Kevin Sorbo, star of God is Not Dead, shares his remarkable story of faith, including how his faith helped him through a traumatic health crisis that could have killed him or left him an invalid.

As his wife says in the video, “He’s a good guy.”

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God Is Not Dead and Messages that Resonate

 

God Is Not Dead, the low budget surprise hit of the season, is drawing audiences and brickbats that seem out of proportion to the movie itself.

God Is Not Dead is an uber low-budget film that opened in a limited number of theaters to consistently terrible reviews. The movie has a predictable plotline and, with the exception of Kevin Sorbo, who had the starring role in the television series Hercules, unknown actors.

Yet it is pulling in the $$. The small side theaters where it is showing are filling up. It’s been in those theaters long enough for any roll that accrued to the film through early direct marketing to churches has died. But the audiences keep coming, and, surprisingly, they are mostly young people who cheer and applaud when the film’s hero vanquishes the villain.

At the same time, a matching vitriol, not toward the film itself, but toward it’s message, is dotting the internet like a bad case of chickenpox.

What’s with this little film?

I didn’t get around to seeing the movie until recently, so I attended it with a post-direct-marketing audience. I personally witnessed the full theater of young people, with late-comers going from aisle to aisle, looking for a seat. I saw and heard the entire audience cheer and clap at the gotcha line aimed at the villainous professor.

I came home wondering if this was an Oklahoma thing. I looked at the box office results, and it turned out that $2 million God Is Not Dead was in range with $125 million Noah for the weekend’s box office. Meanwhile the Christian-bashing thought meisters of the internet were in a rageful froth over the film’s astonishing success.

Predictably, this spiteful jabbing was aimed, not at the film itself, but at Christians in general. The basic message in these opinion pieces is simple. Here’s the gist of it: YOU CHRISTIANS ARE STUPID, PARANOID FOOLS! YOU ARE NOT PERSECUTED!!!! NOW SIT DOWN, SHUT UP AND STOP SPENDING YOUR MONEY ON A FILM WITH A MESSAGE TO THE CONTRARY OF WHAT WE TELL YOU!!!

It turns out that there are at least three underlying messages in the success of God Is Not Dead, and only one of them is in the film itself.

I think that God Is Not Dead is somewhat analogous to the Billy Jack movies of the 70s. It has a message that strikes a powerful chord with the younger generation of Christians. Every Christian kid who’s sat in a classroom while the professor derides people of faith, or who has been belittled and given lower grades for standing firm on their beliefs, knows from their own life experience that this movie is based on reality. I think that’s the reason that this movie has legs, and I also think it’s the reason that young adults in the audience burst into applause and cheers when the student zapped the bullying professor.

I know from personal experience that nothing gets the Christian-bashing crowd going more than Christians who call Christian bashing what it is. They turn personal in one ugly step. I’ve been accused of all sorts of things, including indifference to the mass murder of millions, because I raise these issues.

The Christians-are-crazy crowd is really heaping it on right now because of the surprise success of God Is Not Dead. They appear to be confounded by the fact that people will spend their money and go watch a film with a message about Christian bashing in higher education. According to them, Christians who believe that Christian bashing exists in higher education are all a bunch of paranoid hayseeds with very small brains.

What they fail to see is that this attitude in much of the media, along with the undeniable Christian bashing that occurs in a great deal of higher education, is exactly why God Is Not Dead is striking such a chord with so many people. It speaks to their experience, an experience which is denied, derided and belittled by both big-time entertainment and the internet mavens who are jabbing at God Is Not Dead’s surprising success.

I honestly thought that this movie had the possibility of a good run when I saw the previews for it. I knew that the Christian bashing that the film dramatizes is happening and that a lot of Christians are beginning to get enough of it.

I’m glad God Is Not Dead is a success. My reason is simple: I want Christian young people to stop allowing themselves to be bullied in the halls of academia by professors with personal problems.

To the extent that God Is Not Dead raises the self-awareness of Christian young people and helps then find their courage, I think it is a very good film, indeed.

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Easter in Nigeria: Boko Haram Will Not Have the Final Word

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, Nigeria spoke of Easter hope in the midst of suffering Sunday.

“We … cannot let Boko Haram have the final word … there is a greater force (than Boko Haram) and we there should not be overcome by a terrible fear and even paranoia that we are unable to even go out to worship,” he said.

Nigerian Christians celebrated the Resurrection in the midst of mourning. Seventy-nine people were recently killed in a bomb blast, and 129 school girls were abducted by the Islamic group to be used as slaves. Forty-four of these girls have managed to escape, a fact that gives hope.

I wrote a post earlier, asking why the government can’t track Boko Haram down and end them. It seems to me that having 44 girls who have escaped and could give information would be a major aid in doing just that.

In the meantime, Archbishop Kaigama says that Nigeria Christians, “… believe that God cannot abandon us and as a Church we continue to pray and preach nonviolence and we continue to inspire confidence in people. We should only succumb and subject ourselves to Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life and who is the Resurrection.”

That thought, that we should only subject ourselves to Jesus is the essence of Christian freedom. It the call of every Christian, everywhere. Our only master should be Our Lord, which means that the many things we submit ourselves to in this life are a false calling. In the final analysis, none of us answers to anyone but Him, and, again in the final analysis, each and every one of us actually does answer to Him.

Why Did Jesus Have to Die, and Why Does the Resurrection Matter?

 

Calvary is the fulcrum of history.

Everything changed on that hill called Golgotha 2,000 years ago. Three days later, when the stone rolled away, God put His final redemptive imprimatur on the story of our salvation.

Before that Day in the garden outside the empty tomb, when He looked at the woman and said, Mary!,  Solomon’s ancient wail of “Vanity, vanity; all is vanity,” was the summation of the reality of human existence.

But Calvary and what He did there, the garden and Who the woman met there, changed all that forever.

Do not eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, for you will surely die, God told them.

“You will not die,” Satan countered, in one of the deceptive lies disguised in a seeming truth that he uses so often against us.

They ate.

And they did not die.

Then.

But death was born into the world with that first bite of disobedience. The scales fell from their eyes and they knew. They fouled their primal innocence with willfulness, and they knew shame; first the shame of their nakedness, and then the shame of their fallenness.

Their first action was to hide from God because, as they told Him, “We were ashamed because we were naked.”

God’s answer illuminates their changed condition, Who told you that you were naked?

Their second action was to blame one another.

Primal innocence was gone in a single bite of the apple of disobedience, replaced by primal love of self.

Humankind denied this loss throughout its history, denies it even to this day. Self-will battles with God’s will in each of us every moment of our lives. And yet, there is in each of us, encoded in our souls, a haunting memory of who we really are, and an inchoate longing that will not be silenced for what we have lost.

“Our hearts are made for thee,” St Augustine said. And so they are.

God-longing is a part of the human condition, as is a hunger for transcendence and lost innocence. Separated as we are, this longing festers into resentment and denial, while the hunger congeals on our souls as hubris and self-worship.

The curse of lost innocence drives us to rageful disobedience. It ensnares us in our own desires and, if we let it, murders us with the excesses those desires breed in our lives.

Throughout human history this pull of longing for God and lost innocence has played against the push of the hubris of our self-aggrandizements and twisted desires. The tension it creates drives us into a universal acceptance of insanity. We kill one another and we kill ourselves in as many ways as the human story can devise. Our blood-soaked history of suffering and misery has one message: We cannot save ourselves.

The God-hunger encoded in us and the God-image inside of us, drive us to seek propitiation. From moloch to corporatism, we feed our lives and the lives of our children into the empty maw of false gods of our devising. We seek our lost transcendence in debauchery and achievement; in doing good and doing bad; in war making and peace making; in causes and rights and laws.

We try to achieve a lost immortality by looking as Ted Bundy did, into the eyes of those we kill and persuading ourselves that in that moment when the light of life fades we are like gods. We attempt to overcome our finite hopelessness by doing good works, and advancing humankind through the achievements of our efforts and our minds.

But in the end, we are but dust. Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.

God does not force us. He doesn’t reach down and re-invent us back to our lost innocence.

That is not cruelty as some claim. It is love and longing. Love, to be love, must be freely given. Our love for Him must be ours to give or withhold, or it is not love at all.

So God led us gently over long years and slow changes to the moment when He stepped into our history as one of us in order to offer us a Way. Jesus had to die because by dying He became the ultimate sacrificial lamb, the complete propitiation for our sins. He made it right by offering Himself in lieu of us on the altar of life and death.

He was our Passover lamb and Calvary was the ultimate and final Lord’s Passover.

If that is true, then what is the meaning and the necessity of the Resurrection? Wasn’t dying on the cross enough to redeem us?

The answers people give are all true. The Resurrection demonstrates that Jesus is God. The Resurrection is a sign of the resurrection that awaits all of us who accept Him and go through the open doorway of redemption that He represents. He is the Way in a literal and absolute manner. We enter into the Kingdom through Him.

But I think there is another ultimate meaning to the Resurrection. Calvary wasn’t the only way that God could have restored us to Himself. It was the only way He could do it and leave us free.

The Resurrection was the great undoing of that curse we cursed ourselves with in the garden. If you eat of the tree of knowledge, you will surely die. 

You will not die, Satan told us, and left out the word “today.”

We believed the lie, and the curse of death, real death that is separation from the Light, entered humanity.

The Resurrection broke that curse. God Himself entered into death, took on the curse, and experienced its depths. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me, Jesus cried from the cross as He experienced the cold annihilation of The Alone in its absolute form.

I’ve have written about The Alone that we inflict on one another with our cruelties. But that Alone, which is a foretaste of the pit of hell, is nothing but a foretaste. The real hell, the true Alone, is complete separation from God.

We experience shades of this hell in the bitter blackness of our sinfulness. I have lived a bit of it, both in things I’ve done and things that have been done to me. The pleasure people take in hurting other people is a dark thing that swallows their own humanity.

We can cast other people into The Alone with our rapes, tortures, murders, greed, gossip and pretentious claims to superiority. Every time we do this to another person, we experience a bit of the cold blackness that such actions come from.

The curse of the fall is our daily experience, and that curse is death. The Resurrection broke that curse. God entered into our cursedness and experienced its shattering consequences. He, Who knew no sin, became sin for our sakes.

Then, on the third day, He shattered the curse like a glass by breaking death itself. He cast off death and arose from the grave.

This was different in every way from miracles such as raising Lazarus or the little girl or the young man who was being carried to his burial place. The difference is that He didn’t stand outside death and undo it for a time, He entered into death and dissolved it for all time.

Physical death is a huge thing to us. But to God it appears to be almost trivial. Jesus raised people from the dead as easily as taking a drink of water. Little girl arise, He said. He took pity on a mother’s grief at her son’s funeral procession and raised the young man with a word. Lazarus, come forth He commanded and Lazarus walked out of his tomb.

Physical death isn’t the great divide that it is to us to One who sees both sides of the experience, to the One Who created life in the first place.

The Resurrection isn’t another casual raising of someone from the dead so that they will die again in a few years. The Resurrection is an everlasting casting off of ultimate death altogether.

Eat, and you will surely die. 

You will not die … today.

I am the Way … all who believe in Me will never die. 

The Resurrection is the end of death. It is the Way out of getting what we deserve.

And it leaves us free. We can accept Him and love Him … or not.

Love is not love unless it is freely given.

I Want to Sing Pope Francis a Song

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